Why do dogs shake their toys?

Last updated on February 18th, 2023

Have you ever watched your dog playing with its favorite toy, shaking it vigorously, and wondering what could be going through its furry little head? Shaking a stuffed animal or plastic bone doesn’t make much sense to humans.

But to our pup friends, this behavior is an expression of automatic play passed down from generations of wild ancestors. This blog post will discuss why dogs shake their toys and explore the science behind them.

Dogs Playful Specie Introduction

Dogs are part of the Canidae family, which includes wolves, foxes, and other wild canines. This group has evolved over thousands of years to be highly social and active animals. Playtime is a vital part of their development—not just for having fun but also for practicing important skills such as hunting and communication.

10 Amazing Scientific Explanations dogs shake their toys

Following are:

Anticipation of a Reward

Dogs may shake their toys in anticipation of getting something tasty or exciting, like treats or a chance to go outside and play fetch.

Cognitive Stimulation

Fatigue is one sign that your aggressive shaking behavior has become more than just fun and games. It could indicate they are seeking mental stimulation, which can come from playing with puzzle toys or engaging in mentally stimulating activities such as hide and seek.

Exploring Prey Drive

Many dogs have natural predatory instincts, which include shaking their prey to kill it before eating it. When they do this to their stuffed animal, it’s likely an instinctive behavior rather than intentional aggression.

Calming Anxiety

Dogs often shake their toys to self-soothe and release pent-up energy when anxious or stressed. This can benefit the pup and its human parents, as it helps create a more peaceful environment.

Expressing Excitement

When your pup is super excited about something, like a new toy or going for a walk, they may begin shaking their toy in pure bliss! It’s their way of expressing joy and enthusiasm at something that brings them happiness.

Killing Boredom 

If your pup has nothing else to do, they might start shaking whatever is around—whether it’s a stuffed animal or an old shoe! This could indicate that your pup is bored and needs more interactive playtime.

Showing Dominance

In some cases, toy-shaking can also signify dominance—especially if it’s accompanied by other forms of aggression, such as growling or barking. Suppose you notice this behavior in your pup. In that case, it’s best to take them to the vet for a checkup and consult a professional trainer to handle the situation safely and effectively.

A Sign Of Comfort 

It’s not uncommon for dogs to shake their favorite toys as an expression of comfort or security when feeling overwhelmed in a new environment or situation. This is a way for them to calm themselves down and relax.

Bonding with Humans 

When a pup shakes its toy, it could be an invitation for some quality bonding time with you! For example, they may shake their favorite toy until you come over to pick it up and join in on the fun.

Natural Instinct 

Shaking toys is just part of being a dog—an instinct passed down to them from generations of wild ancestors. It helps them express their emotions and interact healthily with humans and other animals.

No matter what your pup’s motivation might be for shaking their toys, it’s important to remember that this behavior should always be done under supervision. That way, you can ensure that playtime is safe and enjoyable for the pup and its human companions.

Some breeds shake their toys more than others.

While all dogs have the instinct to shake their toys, some breeds may be more likely to do it than others. This could be due to genetics or even a matter of preference—after all, every pup is unique! Breeds known for being high-energy and active are more likely to exhibit this behavior, such as herding and sporting dogs.

Dog owner

Aggressive behavior can manifest itself in different ways. Some dogs may bark and lunge, while others will shake their toy as a sign of aggression or dominance. When a dog shakes their toy, it is usually done with an intense gaze, accompanied by deep and loud growls.

On the other hand, normal behavior during a tug-of-war game involves the same toy being gently held and shaken with a relaxed facial expression. This difference in behavior can give us clues as to why dogs shake their toys.

Terrier breed

Dogs tend to shake their toys more often when they’re part of the terrier breed, as they are known for their strong prey drive. Terriers were bred to hunt small animals and shake them as a way of killing them. Small prey would struggle to escape the jaws of a terrier and eventually tire out, allowing them to be shaken until dead.

Favorite Dog Toys

1. Rope Toys: Rope toys are a classic choice for dogs and come in various shapes, sizes, and textures. They offer mental stimulation and an opportunity to practice their chewing skills!

2. Stuffed Animals: Many pups love stuffed animals—they can be comforting and provide hours of entertainment. Ensure the stuffing is securely sewn inside so your pup doesn’t ingest it.

3. Kong Toys: Kongs are one of the most popular toys for dogs because they can be filled with treats or kibble and require them to work for their rewards. This helps keep their brains active while satisfying their instinct to hunt for food!

4. Squeaky Toys: These toys are a favorite for many pups and come in almost any shape imaginable—from tennis balls to dinosaurs! The squeaking sound the toys make when chewed on helps keep their interest.

5. Interactive Toys: Interactive toys are great for stimulating your pup’s mind, requiring them to solve a puzzle before getting their reward. This can help prevent boredom and encourage positive behavior!

6. Frisbees/Flying Discs: Frisbees or flying discs are perfect for getting your pup active outdoors! They’re easy to toss around and allow you to practice your throwing skills too.

7. Plush Toys: Plush toys are great for snuggling and provide the perfect opportunity for your pup to express their love by shaking and cuddling them.

8. Rubber Toys: Rubber toys, like balls or sticks, can help keep your pup’s teeth healthy as they chew on them. They also make great fetching companions when you take your pup outside!

9. Bone Toys: Bone-shaped toys are a classic favorite among pups! The shape encourages chewing, which helps promote healthy dental hygiene habits in dogs.

10. Chew Toys: Chew toys are designed to withstand the toughest of chewers while also providing comfort and security during those times of stress. These could be anything from knots to bones—make sure to pick a size appropriate for your pup.

Dog-shaking toys are just one-way they express themselves, and it’s important to remember that this behavior should always be done under supervision. That way, you can ensure that playtime is safe and enjoyable for the pup and its human companions.


Do all dog breeds shake their toys?

Not all dog breeds are prone to shaking their toys, but most dogs enjoy this activity. To encourage your pup to shake their toys, start by offering them various toys that allow them to use their jaws and teeth.

Why do dogs shake toys and heads when they play with toys?

When dogs play with their toys, they often shake their heads side to side as part of the instinctive behavior. This expression of hunting behavior helps them simulate the hunt, using their jaws and teeth to catch and kill imaginary prey.

Why do dogs whip their toys?

The whipping motion of a dog’s toy is another instinctive action that helps them with the hunt. By swinging the toy back and forth, they help build momentum to propel themselves forward to capture their imaginary prey. This behavior also helps to release excess energy and keep them mentally stimulated.

Do dogs get bored of the same toys?

Yes, just like humans, dogs can get bored of the same toys if they are not often given new ones. Rotate their toys regularly to keep your pup entertained and engaged with their playtime. You could even hide treats or food inside the toy for an extra challenge!


Overall, play is an important part of a dog’s life. Whether chasing a ball or shaking their favorite toy, canines rely on play to express themselves and keep entertained. By understanding the biological and evolutionary background behind the behavior, dog owners can better appreciate how their pup interacts with its environment.

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